Associate Magazine-Jan/Mar 2021
Continued from "Trapped", on page 10
THE CORONAVIRUS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Following the initial spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, public health policies were implemented in the U.S. requiring social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and a dramatic decrease in social mobility and access to services (Leslie & Wilson, 2020). Millions of workers lost their jobs or their working hours were cut, and new employment opportunities fell nearly 30% (Cajner et al., 2020; Campello, Kankanhalli, & Muthukrishnan, 2020; Kahn et al., 2020). Close to 35% of workers began working from home and children shifted to virtual learning (Dingel & Neiman, 2020). Consequently, many DV victims were continually isolated in their homes in close proximity to their abusers. Research is still ongoing and mixed specific to the effects of COVID-19 on DV victimization. As public health directives began to proliferate, DV advocates expressed concern that there would be a surge in DV, especially severe DV, due in part to victims being less able to obtain intervention from police and other services providers (Kofman & Garfin, 2020). Chicago Police Department crime data appear to support this claim. As shown in Figure 1, between 2019 and 2020, there was an approximate 20.45% decrease in aggravated domestic battery and a 66.18% increase in aggravated domestic battery with a knife or firearm (City of Chicago, 2020), which are often felony- or higher-level misde- meanor crimes. 2 While these data do not specify the month of occurrence, such results may suggest a sizeable uptick in more severe and dangerous abuse following implementation of COVID-19 social restrictions. More research is needed to support this contention.
ridge, 2014). Research shows that DV victim access to formal (and informal) services is associated with increased safety, reduced DV (in the short-term), and improving physical and mental health (Evans & Feder, 2016). We explore this argument through the use of a case study and recent Chicago and Illinois data on DV cases and victim DV services use. Felony DV offenders sentenced to prison, or high-level mis- demeanor DV offenders sentenced to formal, intensive probation usually have committed more severe violence against their part- ners involving serious bodily harm or death, violence inflicted on a child, the use of a deadly weapon, sexual violence, violations of protection orders (POs), and/or repetitive DV, amongst oth- ers (Smith & Farole, 2009). DV offenders typically have criminal records of DV, assault, or other criminality, and demonstrate sta- bility in levels of offending wherein those who initially perpetrate severe violence often exact severe violence when they reoffend (Taylor, Cantos, O’Leary, & Kessler, 2017). Research also shows that men who kill their intimate partners usually have a history of DV crime (Dobash et al., 2007; Gwinn, 2006). In 2006, 35-year-old Glenford Martinez was released on mandatory supervised release (MSR) from the Illinois Depart- ment of Corrections (IDOC) after serving 13 years for attempted murder. 1 Then, in 2007, Martinez was arrested for domestic battery after he allegedly strangled his 22-year-old ex-girlfriend, Mersaides McCauley. Martinez’s arrest was a violation of his MSR conditions, enabling the IDOC to issue an arrest warrant, deny him bail, and return him to prison. However, at the time of his arrest, parole/MSR violation arrest warrants were not automati- cally issued in Illinois, and the decision to issue was decided on a case-by-case basis (Rozas, 2008). Thus, Martinez was able to make bail and released back into the community prompting Mc- Cauley to obtain a PO to keep herself safe from repeat violence (Rozas, 2008). In 2008, approximately 10 days before he was required to be in court for the domestic battery charge, Martinez shot and killed McCauley from his car while she was walking out of church services and then killed himself an hour later. A few days after the homicide, the IDOC issued changes to its internal policies requiring “warrants for violation of parole to be automatically issued for parolees accused of domestic violence, stalking, or sex offenses” (Rozas, 2008, n.p.). While Martinez was not initially incarcerated for a DV offense, this case highlights that both violent crime (not including DV) and DV felony offenders who perpetrate abuse or have a criminal DV record must be strictly supervised and have violation penalties consistently enforced while under community supervision (i.e., probation or parole). When DV offenders are released early from prison or placed on probation, the likelihood of DV recidivism is high (Hilton, Harris, Popham, & Lang, 2010; Olson & Stalans, 2002), arguably increasing the risk of serious, injurious violence despite continued CJS oversight and enforcement. A study examining repeat offending among 150 men incarcerated for DV offenses found that 27% of the sample recidivated, with the majority committing assault (83%), assault causing bodily harm (20%), or assault with a weapon or aggravated assault (10%) (Hilton et al., 2010). Those who recidivated were at higher risk of perpetrating severe abuse, and the seriousness of the abuse strongly aligned with the seriousness of their sentences (Hilton et al., 2010). Violent probationers convicted of DV crimes are nearly 4 times as likely to revictimize the original victim than are other probationers who had committed other violent crimes (Olson & Stalans, 2002).
Figure 1: Aggravated domestic battery with and without a firearm or knife between 2015 and 2019.
Some reports indicate that calls to law enforcement de- creased substantially following COVID-19 stay-at-home restric- tions (and then increased significantly as restrictions eased) (Kofman & Garfin, 2020; Southall, 2020); however, calls that were received were frantic, hurried, and involved crisis situa- tions (Kaplan & Wong, 2020). DV advocates have reported that victims seeking assistance for serious DV injury has increased (Wade, 2021). Reports of increasing and decreasing victim calls for formal assistance both have troubling implications (Southall, 2020). During the exacerbated isolating conditions of COVID-19, increased calls to hotlines may suggest a rise in DV, while a de- crease in normal call volume may imply that victims are less able to safely seek assistance. Empirical research validates that victim isolation is associated with increases in DV (see Campbell et al.,
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